1 in 5 Americans are Poor

As summer melts away and non-profit organizations gear up for a difficult fall, anti-poverty activists need an accurate picture of just how tough it is out there.  Following up on Greg’s great post from Thursday that captured the growth of hunger nationwide, we offer now a quick summary of the latest recessionary figures:

37.3M people were living below the official poverty line in 2007; 2008 should see another 1.5M added, for a statistically significant growth to 12.7% of the population.  Experts anticipate an even worse result by the end of ’09, and estimate we could hover around 15% of the population officially considered living in poverty.  Even acknowledging how outdated this poverty measure is, we have not counted 1 in 7 people living in poverty since the recession of the early 1990s.  And if historical census figures that include the “near poor” are anything to go by, we can expect 1 in 5 people, or 20% of Americans, to be living in or near poverty by the end of this year.

– The national unemployment rate is 9.4%, and is expected to hit 10%.  The jobless rate is likely double, as the unemployment rate only includes those actively seeking work.  6.5M jobs have disappeared since the beginning of 2008.

Each day brings an average of 10k foreclosures.  Almost 2M Americans will lose their homes in 2008; unemployment is supplanting subprime lending as the #1 foreclosure trigger.

– More formerly middle-class families are living in poverty.  61% of all Utahns seeking help with economic hardship this year were new to the system.  The fastest growing group without health insurance are those earning between $50k – $75k per yearSuburban areas have seen family homelessness grow by 56% nationwide.

Now go forth and craft your organization’s grant proposals!  The Foundation Center has a handy chart of which foundations are ramping up or scaling back in response to the recession.  For the rest of us, the need for volunteers, resources, and empathy has never been greater.


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